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2017: A Close Reading

Photo: Flickr / Blaine O'Neill

How to crystallize 2017? That’s not really a fair question, since 2017—like any other year—has been innumerable things. But one word has hovered above all the rest: unnerving. The world over, there’s been lots to wring your hands over: the seemingly endless electoral threat of far-right populism; apparent brinkmanship with North Korea; apocalyptic weather; mass shootings and other attacks; America, generally. (Do I really need to continue?)

Yet in all that, the year, too, has offered resolve and righteous anger and reason not to bow completely to a world overstuffed with stress. In particular, though not exclusively, this sort of judicious optimism could be found in exquisite books and pieces of journalism—in the way these products have helped audiences to make sense of a world amid a shakeup. So, in the interests of inspiration, this edition of the New America Weekly highlights things New America staffers have read, new and old, in 2017 that have, in some way, filled up the tank as they head into 2018.

Elizabeth Weingarten explores how, even though journalism is often excoriated for producing more noise than signal, the sexual harassment investigations show the impact it can have. A book about the female codebreakers of World War II shows Catherine Wilson the radical resilience of women who have long pushed back against a sexist society. If you better understand what’s making you scared, in 2018, you’ll start to party like it was 1999, says Fuzz Hogan. Anne-Marie Slaughter investigates Alexis de Tocqueville’s seminal political critique, and how it bears directly on the crisis of American democracy—almost two centuries later. At a time when the world seems to give us little to be merry about, writes Tyra Mariani, a book about two men, of two different faiths, offers a blueprint for finding—and holding onto—joy. Let’s not forget about poetry; Aja Monet’s new book of poetry takes readers to a world that re-centers the experiences of women of color, argues Emily Fritcke. And, last, it’s largely impossible to talk about American racial politics without also making mention of Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. To that end, Alyssa Sims makes the case that new writing from Coates prods America to think harder about race.

Read up. The Weekly will return in 2018.


Brandon Tensley is the assistant editor at New America.